International Relations Government Business and Finance Finance

Swiss International Studies, Migration and Finance

Swiss Network for International Studies /
Swiss Network for International Studies /

I’m writing from Bern, where I’m attending the Swiss Network for International Studies‘ (SNIS) first yearly conference. The Network was established two years ago to promote interdisciplinary research in issues of international relevance among Swiss academics.

The international relations field is still pretty new at Swiss universities. It might well be a corollary of the fact that, for much of the past century, the country’s neutrality in international politics boiled down to passivity. Several speakers at the first day of the conference reminded us that Switzerland only joined the UN in 2002.

In any case, the young Swiss’ interest in international affairs is exploding at the moment: A Geneva professor talked to me about the exponential rise in student numbers since his university launched an undergraduate program in international relations.

Here are two highlights from the first day of the conference – based on my own biased personal interests…

Government Foreign policy

Detours of Swiss Foreign Policy

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey / Photo: Wikipedia
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey / Photo: Wikipedia

A new analysis by the ISN’s mother organization Center for Security Studies (CSS), Swiss Foreign Policy 2009: Crises and Challenges, discusses current issues of Switzerland’s foreign policy. Before the backdrop of conflicts over banking secrecy and the infamous clash with Libya, it looks at corner stones of Swiss foreign policy. Daniel Möckli especially highlights the domestically unpopular issue of a possible future EU membership.

You can download the paper here.

Culture Internet

Seek And Ye Shall Find, Sort Of / /

The latest addition to the search engine world is, an Islam-based service:

According to the site: “ is search engine designed for Muslims to be able to continue their online activities in a safe and clean environment. Using will prevent you from ‘accidentally’ bumping into explicit content.”

For example, if you search for “pig” or “beer” using the engine, you receive a warning telling you that your results may be haram (forbidden in Islam).

Search result for 'pig'from
Search result for 'pig' from

The word “sex” gets you on level 2 of the site’s haram scale. “Porno,” sends you to level 3, which welcomes you with a very strong red message.

But ImHalal isn’t the only religion-based search engine I’ve recently encountered: provides “God-honoring and spiritually encouraging” content, making sure all results are Bible based.

If you search for “Darwin” (as in Charles), you’ll find articles questioning his mental health. “Abortion” gives you tons of “pro-life” links and arguments.

Both sites promote themselves as providing a safe framework for followers to search the Web in.

And perhaps they’re right. The World Wide Web is also the ‘World Wild Web.’


ISN Weekly Theme: Islam in Southeast Asia

Muslim girls walking to school in Indonesia, photo: Shreyans Bhansali/flickr
Muslim girls walking to school in Indonesia, photo: Shreyans Bhansali/flickr

Islam, Islamic politics and religiously motivated violence are usually issues associated with the wider Middle East region or South Asia.

Less visible, yet no less significant is the presence of Islamic politics, tensions and political expression in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

A region marked by immense historical and religious diversity, by painful historical schisms, and in certain cases by an unrivaled dynamism and ability to marry Islam with modernity, Southeast Asia deserves closer inspection and more contextually sensitive analysis.

This week the ISN publishes a Special Report on the issue with a backgrounder on Islam in the region and a case study of the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines.

We have a wealth of further information on the topic in our Digital Library and Current Affairs section- check out:

  • In our Links section, check out the website of the National Bureau of Asian Research which analyzes less visible issues related to Islam and Muslim societies in Asia.
International Relations Government Foreign policy

Costs of War: Peace Prize Politics

Obama at a town hall meeting / Photo: The Official White House Photostream, flickr
Obama at a town hall meeting / Photo: The Official White House Photostream, flickr

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama astounded critics and supporters alike, but it also highlights a gap between the way the world sees the US and the way Americans think about their own homeland.

Read more of what ISN Security Watch’s Shaun Waterman has to say in Costs of War: Peace Prize Politics.

You can also find the Dalai Lama’s acceptance speech for the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize in our Primary Resources along with Al Gore’s speech from 2007.